Lesson 37: Isaiah 22, 23, 24-26, 27, 28-30*
First consider a literal, historical interpretation of these chapters. You may need to consult the maps in your scriptures to understand the references to countries and kingdoms. This is how I think the people of Isaiah’s time would have understood what he was saying:
22:1-14 What will happen to Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar invades.
22:15-25 The condemnation and exile of Shebna, a high official in Hezekiah’s government, and his replacement by someone more worthy, Eliakim. One tradition says that he was the steward of the king’s household, another that he was in charge of the Temple treasury. Tradition also says that he plotted to turn Hezekiah over to the Assyrians, but verse 16 seems to suggest that he has tried to give himself a high status, perhaps by embezzlement.
23 The prophet foretells that Tyre and Sidon, the most important cities in Phoenicia, will be destroyed.
24-27 A set of prophecies of God’s judgment of the world, his overcoming of Satan, his blessing of Israel, and the overcoming of death and suffering.
24 A preview of the judgment day.
25 A hymn of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance of Israel and for the defeat of Israel’s enemies. Which deliverance and which enemies is left unstated.
26:1-6 A song of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the protection of Jerusalem as a city for the righteous and for the humiliation of Jerusalem’s enemies. Again, the time to which this hymn refers is not given, though it seems to be the prophecy of something to come rather than praise for what has already happened.
26:7-19 Three prayers: a prayer expressing trust in God (1-6) and one asking him to destroy his adversaries (7-12); a prayer for Israel’s ultimate deliverance and for the resurrection (13-19).
26:20-21 Isaiah’s call to Israel to go into seclusion until God’s indignation, or anger, at the inhabitants of the earth is past.
27 A prophecy that the Lord will overcome three monsters, two serpents and a dragon. These seem to represent the three great powers of Isaiah’s day, Assyria, Edom, and Egypt. This chapter expands on Isaiah 26:21, describing God’s anger against the inhabitants of the earth.
28-32 Isaiah’s warning about what will happen if Judah makes an alliance with Egypt.
28:1-4 What happened or will happen to Israel, the Northern Kingdom.
28:5-6 The coming of the Messiah.
28:7-8 A description of Judah, showing that they are no better than was Israel.
28:9-13 A question: How can one teach such a people? An answer: Not easily. It will sound to them as if the teacher were stammering or speaking in a foreign language.
28:14-22 Isaiah answers those who scoff at his advice not to make an alliance with Egypt: in response to their scoffing, in the end the Lord will establish his justice and righteousness, and they will overcome the scoffers’ injustice and unrighteousness.
28:23-29 Isaiah invites the scoffers to listen to a parable about farming: the farmer plows, breaking up the soil, but he doesn’t do so just to plow. He has a purpose, namely the eventual harvest. He threshes each seed of his harvest with the appropriate equipment.
< 29:1-4 Though Jerusalem is, at the moment of the prophecy, celebrating its feast (in other words, in charge of itself rather than subservient to another power), it will be attacked and brought down.
29:5-8 Nevertheless, the Lord will destroy Jerusalem’s enemies.
29:9-12 Isaiah inveighs against Judah for not listening to his warning.
29:13-14 He condemns them for a worship that merely goes through the motions.
29:15-21 He prophesies of the restoration of Israel and the destruction of the wicked, particularly those who use words to cause sin, try to trick those who preach repentance, and ignore those who are just.
29:22-24 The restoration will remove Israel’s shame and they will subject themselves to the true God.
30:1-2 A denunciation of those who recommend the alliance with Egypt.
30:3-5 The consequences of that disobedience: Pharaoh will welcome Judah’s representatives, but that welcome will redound to Judah’s shame.
30:6-7 A description of the trip to Egypt and its outcome. Notice that verses 3 and 4 are parallel to verse 6 and verse 5 is parallel to verse 7.
30:8 A command to Isaiah to write down his prophecy.
30:9-11 Why the written book is needed: because Judah will lie and pretend they have not been told these things; they will deny prophesy and demand that the prophets not prophesy.
30:12-14 How the Lord will respond to those lies and demands: Jerusalem will be destroyed.
30:15-16 The Lord promised them that they could be tranquil and safe, but they refused his offer.
30:17 The result of their refusal: Judah will be isolated and alone.
30:18-26 But the Lord will wait for Judah’s repentance and he will save them from the destruction in which they will find themselves, showering them with blessings.
30:27-33 A prophecy of the destruction of the Assyrians when they attack Jerusalem.
After you’ve understood this as Isaiah’s listeners would have understood it, look back to see what kinds of things in these prophecies could be understood as shadows of the coming of Christ as a mortal (the type). Then reread these chapters looking for things that describe the latter-day Restoration. Also look for things that apply to the Second Coming. Finally, look for things that you can apply to your own, individual and family experience. Each of these is a legitimate reading of Isaiah, and that his writings can profitably be read in so many ways is one of the reasons he is such an important prophet.
You might want particularly to look at some of these scriptures and ask yourself how to understand them in each of these ways: Isaiah 22:22; 24:21-22; 25:1-4 (compare 32:1-2); 25:6-9; 26:19; 28:16; 29:4, 9-14, 18, 24; and 30:19-21.
As an exercise in seeing types and shadows, look at two levels for reading this passage. (These are not the only levels of reading, but they are good ones to start with.)
First consider the literal reading:
Shebna is proud and haughty and perhaps commits fraud or treason. (15-16).
Therefore, the Lord will send Shebna into exile and remove him from his post (17-19, 25).
Eliakim, the son of the high priest, Hilkiah, will be appointed in his stead (19-24).
He will be clothed with the official clothing that Shebna wore (21).
He will be in charge of the government, and his relation to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (and Israel!) will be like that of a father (21).
He will have the key of the house of David on his shoulder, in other words, as a sign of his rank, and his authority will be final (22).
He will be “a nail in a sure place” and he will bring honor to his father’s house (23).
His whole family will depend on him (24), which presumably means he will be able to provide for them all.
Now try to understand the same material as a shadow of something eternal:
Footnotes: 20a tells us that we can understand Eliakim as a type of the Savior. His name means “God shall cause to arise.”
Note: Though the footnotes don’t say so, Shebna means “vigor.” Does that add anything to your understanding?
If Eliakim is a type of the Savior, who might Shebna be a type of? What makes you think what you do?
What might the exile of Shebna represent (17-18)?
What might we understand by the Lord’s declaration that Shebna will be driven from his high position and pulled down from his station (19)?
How might we understand the clothing that is put on Eliakim? What might we understand by the government being put in his hands, by him being a father to all of Israel (21)?
What might we understand by “the key of the house of David” (22)? How about “he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”?
How might we understand this person being fastened as “a nail in a sure place” (23)? Bringing honor to his father’s house?
What could it mean to say that his whole family will depend on him (24)?
*The chapters that are not in bold are not assigned for the lesson. Nevertheless, I have included them because I will refer to them.